Canadian Asbestos-Related Legal Issues

Canada usually recognizes mesothelioma as a compensable claim if documentation exists showing the asbestos exposure happened at the workplace. Since there is normally a lengthy latency period from the time of asbestos exposure to the onset of mesothelioma, there could be limitations regarding the claim even when the exposure is verified and documented. Of individuals receiving a diagnosis of mesothelioma, only around a third ever receive compensation. The reason for this low percentage is that claims are not filed by most patients. Possibly victims believe the time and cost involved in the verification process will not be offset by any monies they would receive.

Asbestos Awareness Day

Winnipeg Parliament Member Pat Martin requested the House of Commons designate April 1 – April Fool’s Day – as asbestos awareness day. He also asked the government to provide improved healthcare services for sufferers of mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer and other asbestos-related disease. At the same time, Martin requested an end to exportation of asbestos and asbestos-containing material, as well, claiming the world has been fooled for too long with what he called "phony science". As a young man, Pat Martin spent two years in the Yukon mining asbestos while totally unaware of the possible fatal outcome of exposure to asbestos dust. This experience has doubtless fueled his drive to see these changes come to pass. As the government considers Martin's awareness day motion, the Canadian Cancer Society fully supports Martin and has added its voice to his in requesting an asbestos ban and the end of exportation of chrysotile asbestos.

Rotterdam Convention

During the Rotterdam Convention in 2008, Canada was offered the chance to vote to place asbestos on the United Nations watch list, but in the end refused this opportunity. Most of the representatives to the convention thought the Rotterdam Convention's image was tarnished by refusing to add asbestos to the watch list. The current consensus to include a new chemical was not met, and the representatives felt this failure has placed thousands of lives at risk in other countries to which asbestos is exported. America's representative, Barry Castleman, was outspoken in stating that Canada has no defense for exporting asbestos without informed consent from countries that receive it. Canada continues to defend exportation of the dangerous mineral, stating it is the responsibility of the importing countries to handle the substance safely. Those who oppose exportation, however, claim countries such as India, Indonesia and Pakistan are unable to regulate asbestos use or to handle it safely. References: Canadian Medical Association Journal Rabson, Mia. (August 21, 2009). “Anti-asbestos vote buoys MP Martin.” Retrieved April 13, 2011 from Winnipeg Free Press. Schmidt, Sarah. (March 28, 2011). “Expert demands feds retract statement on ‘safe’ use of asbestos.” Retrieved April 13, 2011 from Canada.com.